Stiff competition and a large field of candidates made for contributions large and small -- and lots of them -- from retirees and business interests across Hilton Head Island leading up to last week's town elections.
Tom Crews raised the most of seven candidates vying to replace Mayor Tom Peeples, with $32,944 in contributions. He spent $20,771 on the campaign, according to the candidates' latest filing, Oct. 18.
Crews, an architect, will face Councilman Drew Laughlin in the Nov. 16 runoff. Laughlin raised the second most, $31,061, and spent $22,831, according to state records.
Much of Crews' contributions came from Realtors, developers and architects. Laughlin received contributions from attorneys, developers and Realtors.
During a debate Monday sponsored by the Hilton Head Island League of Women Voters, Crews and Laughlin were asked to explain the source of their campaign contributions, given "the national concern about millions of dollars" spent on campaigns in the midterm election across the country.
Both said they've been transparent about documenting money they've received, referring people to their online disclosure reports with the state ethics commission. They also dismissed concerns money raised during the campaign would influence the policies they would pursue or votes taken on different issues.
"I don't think any contribution from any company or individual will make a difference one way or the other," Crews said.
Laughlin said no one has asked him to commit to a certain policy to receive money and he has made no promises, "other than to pursue the agenda I have publicly laid out."
"The money has come forward because there are things the candidates represent that (contributors) believe in," Crews said. "It tells me our community is interested in our future by selecting good leadership and trying to help that."
Campaign contribution information for candidates in the Nov. 2 town elections, according to reports filed October and November with the S.C. State Ethics Commission.
The mayor is paid a base salary and attendance fees that shall not exceed $13,900 per fiscal year, according to town ordinance.
Council members are paid a base salary and attendance fees that shall not exceed $10,800 per fiscal year, according to town ordinance.